MUSIC How do you know spring is coming in San Francisco? Trusty Mission venue El Rio starts throbbing once a month to the sweet soul sounds of yesteryear, and a hot, youthful crowd of queer dancers (and friends) floods the spacious patio to capacity. Although there are many parties in the city that cater specifically to gay men, Hard French is one of a handful that has built a successful formula on welcoming everyone — lusty femmes, trans jocks, DIY freaks, fairy stoners, vinyl junkies — while staying true to its spirit of retro-tune vitality and lean toward old-school R&B.
The packed party, which takes place every first Saturday, is a (hopefully) warm weather affair — its season opener Sat/5 will also mark its one-year anniversary. We e-mailed the six-member Hard French team, composed of Devon Devine, Tina Faggotina, Jorge P., Amos G., DJ Carnita, and DJ Brown Amy, to talk about their success and plans for future Frenching. True to the party's collective spirit, and like a funky hot-pink Borg, they preferred to answer as one entity.
SFBG Hard French has quickly established itself as a major Bay Area queer destination. Obviously you wanted to be successful, but was the reaction a surprise?
Hard French We came together to throw a party where twinks and chubsters and queens and plushies and punks — basically all our friends — could come together to French hard and dance it out every month. As we move into our second year, our intentions haven't changed a bit (although we want more leather daddies). We saw room in our communities for a different kind of dance party a place to dance in the sunlight with a bunch of weirdos. It just caught on real fast. People saw Hard French as a special thing. Since our community inspires us, being able to enrich it in the way that Hard French has is awesome.
We've ended a number of our parties with "Everyday People" by Sly and The Family Stone. It's kind of our unofficial anthem because it seems to capture the essence of what we do and what we believe in. Hard French is for everyone; we are all everyday people who just want to ensure that our everyday brothers and sisters have a great time. It's really our crowd that creates the right vibe and aesthetic — it of course helps that they are crazy sexy babes who make us want to dance ourselves into a frenzy and make out all day long. Luckily, our Jiggalicious Hard French Dance Club photo booth captures the ones we missed so we can seek them out later.
SFBG Let's talk about soul — it seems like such a natural match, queers and soul, yet Hard French is unique in bringing the two together. It also seems like soul and San Francisco in general make a great pair ...
HF Unbeknownst to many, the Bay was a hub of soul music during the 1960s and '70s. It was home to better-known artists like Sly and The Family Stone, as well as some of our more personal favorites like Sugar Pie De Santo and Darondo. The soul resurgence today is largely due to the San Francisco's wealth of amazing soul DJs who have been digging through records and throwing great parties here for a while now. We've been honored to have some of these DJs, like Lucky of Soul Party and Primo of Oldies Night, be our guests at past Hard Frenches. We've heard from these DJs and others that the difference between our party and other soul parties in the city is that we reach out to everyone. We don't just attract "soul people" — we attract everyone, which makes us unique.
SFBG This question seems kind of mean, since there's so few left, but what's your favorite record store for soul scores?
HF Rookie Ricardo's Records (www.rookyricardosrecords.com ) in the Lower Haight. The owner, Dick Vivian, has been dancing to these 45s since they were originally pressed — and he now shares them with all the DJs who take an interest. Also, Dick is our total record daddy dream babe. The aforementioned soul scene in San Francisco would not exist without Rookie's.
SFBG Any new record scores the DJs are stoked to debut on Saturday?
HF "Since the Days of Pigtails" by Chairmen of the Board, "Do the 45" by the Sharpees, Ruby Lee's "Gonna Put a Watch On You," and "Soulful Dress" by Sugar Pie DeSanto. Plus a bunch more — we've basically spent the last three months digging through acres of vinyl.
SFBG What's been the most memorable Hard French moment so far?
HF Our most mind-altering moment had to have been the Hard French Winter Ball we threw in January at the haunted Brookdale Lodge in the Santa Cruz mountains. More than 400 people — from Santa Cruz locals to folks as far as New York, Toronto, and New Orleans — dressed in their finest formal fashions and completely took over the lodge. Seriously, every room was booked, the hotel bar was overrun, there were drag queens putting on face in the bathrooms, queers frenching in every nook and cranny, and even double dutch happening in the famous Brook Room, a beautiful room with a river that runs right through it! The event was hosted by the one and only Lil Miss Hot Mess, who curated a show that featured jaw-dropping performances by Glamamore, Alotta Boute, and others. There was also a dance contest, a highly competitive coronation ... Oh, and we made it snow — inside the hotel. No big deal.
SFBG Any plans to take the party abroad? Will you ever be able to say Hard French is big in Japan?
HF Though it's easy to forget, Canada is abroad, and Hard French has had mind-blowing parties in Toronto (as well as New York). But yes, we do have a few other international buns in the oven. As a note, if anyone out there wants to pay for six round trip tickets, a few hotel suites, a couple pitchers of margaritas, and some regional cuisine, Hard French will roll into your town and throw the best damn dance party that Iceland, Croatia, Zanzibar, or wherever has ever seen.
SFBG Describe Hard French in a haiku.
HF: Make out with hot babes/ Inside soul shaken sunlight/ Daytime adventure.
Sat/5 and every first Sat., 3 p.m.– 8 p.m.
$7 (free BBQ from 3–5 p.m.)
3158 Mission, SF.